See those weird, black, spidery things dotting the dunes in this colorized photo taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2010? Yeah. Nobody knows what the hell those things are.
What we do know about them just underlines how incredibly unfamiliar Mars really is to us. First spotted by humans in 1998, these splotches pop up every Martian spring, and disappear in winter. Usually, they appear in the same places as the previous year, and they tend to congregate on the sunny sides of sand dunes — all but shunning flat ground. There's nothing on Earth that looks like this that we can compare them to. It's a for real-real mystery, writes Robert Krulwich at NPR. But there are theories:
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, from Hungary, from the European Space Agency have all proposed explanations; the leading one is so weird, it's transformed my idea of what it's like to be on Mars. For 20 years, I've thought the planet to be magnificently desolate, a dead zone, painted rouge. But imagine this: Every spring, the sun beats down on a southern region of Mars, morning light melts the surface, warms up the ground below, and a thin, underground layer of frozen CO2 turns suddenly into a roaring gas, expands, and carrying rock and ice, rushes up through breaks in the rock, exploding into the Martian air. Geysers shoot up in odd places. It feels random, like being surprise attacked by an monstrous, underground fountain.
"If you were there," says Phil Christensen of Arizona State University, "you'd be standing on a slab of carbon dioxide ice. All around you, roaring jets of carbon dioxide gas are throwing sand and dust a couple hundred feet into the air." The ground below would be rumbling. You'd feel it in your spaceboots.
Read the rest of Robert Krulwich's post — and check out some spectacular photos of the things — at NPR
Eliza writes, “A researcher from Lehigh University has invented a light-based pacemaker for fruit flies, and says a human version is ‘not impossible.’ The pacemaker relies on the new technique of ‘optogenetics,’ in which light-sensitive proteins are inserted into certain cells, allowing those cells to be activated by pulses of light. Here, the proteins were […]
San Francisco recently doubled the number of walls it was coating with hydrophobic paint, which is supposed to deter wall-pissing by making the urine spray back all over the pee-er.
“A sneezing monkey, a walking fish and a jewel-like snake are just some of a biological treasure trove of over 200 new species discovered in the Eastern Himalayas in recent years,” reports the World Wildlife Foundation today.
This Smartphone Photo Lens Kit arms you with six unique smartphone photography accessories, so you can take high-quality and well-composed photos of any subject from small insects to expansive landscapes.6 unique lensesRolls up neatly for transportTripod for stabilitySmall lenses attach seamlessly with magnetMicroscope and 8x telephoto lenses attach with a case (case attaches to phone)Lens wallet […]
Inspired by the universality of symbols, the founders of Noun Project began to collect thousands of hand-drawn icons. The concept has since transformed into a massive digital collection of 150,000+ unique icons that fuel the work of designers every day. Spend less time crafting icons and more time putting amazing designs out into the world with […]
You won’t need to think twice about going hands-free on the road with Exomount’s easy-to-use car mount. It mounts your smartphone so easily, you literally only need one hand to quickly secure your phone in the perfect position and get driving. Don’t risk a ticket, use the world’s best suction technology to effortlessly mount and […]